New York Jets: Breaking Down Antonio Cromartie's Performance Since Revis Injury

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New York Jets: Breaking Down Antonio Cromartie's Performance Since Revis Injury
The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

When Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with an ACL tear a few weeks back, Antonio Cromartie proclaimed himself as the new best cornerback in the NFL.

After three Revis-less weeks of Jets football, he's been impressive against Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (one catch, 15 yards) and Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (five catches, 87 yards—and two of those catches weren't against Cromartie), but it would be even more impressive were it not for so many penalties.

Cromartie was called for four penalties in the past three games, three of which came just this past week. The most penalties Revis has ever been called for in a season is seven, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

In a flag-happy NFL with rules catered to wide receivers, it's hard to expect an error-free performance, especially against one of the game's best receivers.

There are more positives than negatives to build on for Cromartie, though, who has held opposing receivers to just six catches on 17 passes in his direction, with one touchdown against him and two interceptions in that time frame (per PFF).

He got a little help from some rookie mistakes on behalf of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck this week, but his coverage was solid nonetheless.

The first pass Luck even threw to Wayne was intercepted by Cromartie, but Luck trusted his receiver too much to make a play.

Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin has long been lauded by many (including Pro Football Focus and myself) as the best pass-rusher on their roster, and he proved it with an excellent change-of-direction move on Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo.

The incoming pressure forced Luck to roll to his left, and he tried to throw the ball across his body to the right for Wayne to make the catch.

He put it a bit too high, and the pass careened off Wayne's fingers and into the sure hands of Cromartie.

Take nothing away from Cromartie, but he was the beneficiary of a bad decision and a worse throw on that one.

Wayne caught one pass for seven yards on Cromartie in the first quarter and another pass for 12 yards in the third quarter of Sunday's game. Both catches came on misdirection routes that had Cromartie building momentum one direction and Wayne quickly shifting gears in the other direction right as the ball arrived.

The Colts may have had an opportunity for a big play, with Wayne beating Cromartie on a double move, were it not for pressure on Luck, once again coming from Aaron Maybin.

On the season, Cromartie's 5.7 coverage grade from ProFootballFocus.com makes him the league's seventh-best cornerback in that metric. But his minus-3.1 penalty grade makes him the league's fifth-worst in that measure.

Notably, though, Cromartie isn't the only one stepping up on defense. Over the past two weeks, quarterbacks have completed exactly 50 percent of their passes. That is partly due to an improved pass rush, which has improved over the past two weeks and has combined for 17 pressures, seven hits and four sacks, according to PFF.

It's also due in part to the improved play of Kyle Wilson, who has allowed catches on just 11-of-25 passes in his direction since Week 3.

Pass defense is a team effort—an effort that is enhanced by Cromartie at times, but is hindered by him at other times. He has always had problems with penalties, but that is part of the deal with cornerbacks who play aggressive in coverage.

Teams may continue to try and take advantage of his weaknesses with double moves that draw contact and expose his length, but Cromartie remains one of the best cover corners in the league and by far the best on the Jets roster.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.

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